The United States wants to establish a spy base in Britain to study space and detect any attempt by states like Russia or China to attack vital satellites in Earth orbit.
Using radar technology that can identify a football-sized object up to 36,000 kilometers away, the facility could also search for less somber but equally harmful pieces of space junk that can also destroy satellites if they collide.
A US Space Force officer said the concept is to build three radar bases around the globe, including one possibly in Scotland or in southern England.
The other two locations are said to be in the US state of Texas and Australia. The first base should be ready for use by 2025.
“It’s necessary because we want to maintain a chain of custody targets that could threaten our systems that are in geosynchronous orbit,” Lt. Col. Jack Walker told Sky News.
“It could be satellites or just debris from missile bodies from other launches.”
He spoke at the US Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles during a visit by British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and two British military chiefs.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, chief of the Royal Air Force, provided a sense of the threats in space, with certain countries developing lasers that can be fired from Earth at targets in orbit, or enemy satellites deliberately targeting them Way of others.
“I would say we need to prepare for the potential to defend our critical infrastructure in space,” he told Sky News.
“Right now there are countries like Russia and China that are doing things and developing systems that … are a threat to satellites that we rely on in our daily lives.”
For example, the American Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation of 31 satellites provides critical navigational and time tracking information to people, governments, and businesses around the world.
Dismantling such satellites would impact cell phones, banks, and even the logistics chains that ensure medical supplies are in hospitals and groceries are in supermarkets.
“I think most of the population probably don’t understand that they depend on space for their daily lives,” said Air Chief Marshal Wigston.
Mr Wallace, who is in the United States on a week-long visit, said the UK is focusing on defending itself in space rather than developing space weapons to launch attacks like its opponents.
But space is seen as the domain of warfare.
At a NATO summit in Brussels last month, Britain and its allies signaled that an attack in space could spark war on Earth.
“I don’t think there would be a war in space on its own,” said the defense minister in an interview at the space center.
“It wouldn’t be like Star Wars or Moonraker with lasers firing everywhere… I suspect that in a larger conflict, space resources would be attacked. So today we have to invest and prepare to make sure we have alternatives. “
Each circular location for the new US radar system – called Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) – would be one kilometer in diameter and accommodate up to six large antenna dishes with a span of 15 meters that would transmit energy into space.
The energy signal would then return to Earth and be recorded in a cluster of up to 10 equally sized dishes in a separate location nearby that are supposed to receive the data.
“You have transmit antennas and you have receive antennas,” said Lt. Col. Walker, who works as an advanced skills program manager in the US Space Force’s special programs directorate.
Britain is already home to a number of spy bases in partnership with the United States such as RAF Flyingdales on Snod Hill in the North York Moors.
This radar station can scan up to 5,000 kilometers and offers an early warning system for incoming ballistic missiles.
When asked about the prospect of a space spy base in the UK, a Defense Department spokesman said: “This new radar feature has the potential to make space safer and safer and to help protect our satellite system by tracking and monitoring objects.
“We are reviewing our potential partnership with the US on DARC and the discussions so far have been positive.”